All posts by Leon Scheuber

Leon co-founded Sweet Lemon and likes to dance.

Global Boardgame News (April 27)

This series is released once or twice a month, covering international gaming news, trends and just plain gossip spotted online.

Got something we should write about? Leave it in the form below the article.

Hello and welcome back again to another edition of our Global Boardgame News. “How come so soon?” you might ask. Well, because of the massive amount of new releases at the upcoming Tokyo Game Market next week May 5-6 and so that everyone can make a more informed decision on our survey about which games to bring back to NiceGameShop.

Thanks for everyone who already took the survey. If you have not already you really should as we will draw one lucky winner who receives 50€ store credit for NiceGameShop to use on all the hotness!

Let’s get going with the new games.

Zee Garcia of the Dice Tower seems to be a big fan of the games by Saashi & Saashi and with good reason: Their games have unusual themes, beautiful distinctive artwork and innovative gameplay. Their new game Let’s Make a Bus Route will be no exception and offers according to the publisher the simplest rule of any of their games yet.

Let’s Make a Bus Route

is a 2-5 player board game where players draw bus routes on a map of Kyoto. You play the role of a bus company employee tasked with making a new bus route.

To make an effective route you must fulfill the needs of visiting tourists, commuters, students, and elderly passengers, while balancing impacts on the city including road traffic. Can you build the bus route that delights the most riders? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to connect to a famous sight-seeing spot while building your requested route? When the busses start moving will you have built the route that delights the most riders? 


The Lost Woods is a cooperative card sliding game by the board game circle Oui-Kai. Within a time limit of 8 minutes 1-4 players try to guide Little Red Riding Hood to the grand mother’s house without getting eaten by the big bad wolf.


In the past designers who showed their games at TGM were often self-publishing and in many cases self-assembling their games. Since they made it for the artistic aspect and not the business side of it, printruns were often as low as 100 copies and if a game was sold out it was gone.

It feels like that around 75% of the games shown at TGM are either purely card games or card games with 1 or 2 added components, mostly cubes or small components you might find at a art supplies shop. These are games you can make inexpensively and are quite fitting for the punk attitude of many publishers at TGM.

While the indie spirit is still very strong at Game Market, this is changing as board games are becoming a bigger market in Japan and Asia and publisher and visitor attendance at TGM is rising every year.

New Games Order was early to break that trend and tends to publish some of the biggest Japanese games in terms of size, scope and materials. They have published Stone Garden with spectacular stone pieces which was also released in an English version in 2014. Then they have followed up with titles like Sixth Rural Village and Patronage, which were unfortunately never translated into English.

At TGM they will be showing Glover, a Euro game for 3-5 players by Akase Yog. With over 300 components it will be definitely one of the biggest games released at the show, but up until now rules were only published in Japanese and information is scarce.


 

Yamato Games is showing their 6th game at Game Market and their titles are easily recognizable because they all have the same size and the same clean and fancy graphic style. After games like Cat’s Party and Animal Village they now show Green Finger, an easy cute, area control type card game for 1-4 players.

The game comes with 29 cards. 25 of them are put facedown in a 5×5 grid in the middle of the table with only the middle card face up and each player gets 1 hut card in their hand. In a turn the player takes a face down card and plays then one card from their hand in the grid where they have just taken the card. When all cards in the middle are face up the game ends and scoring happens. The hut card of each player decides how many points a player get.


Happiest Town is the new game by Toshiki Sato, who previously designed Dice Age: The Hunt and 8bit Mockup, which won the Best Game of TGM 2017 autumn award.

They had a preorder campaign running and because more than 100 copies were sold there, each copy at TGM will include 8 promo cards. What to do with the promo cards and how does the game play? Since the English rules were already posted on BGG they know the answer:

Take charge as one of many mayors in Happiest Town to build buildings and attempt to make your city the happiest of all. The game includes more than forty types of buildings, and in the game you earn money, build stuff, earn more money from what you’ve built, and score at the end of the game with your city’s happiness being determined by a “population x happiness” formula.


The idea of Hiktorune is clever and unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a cooperative dexterity game for 1-5 players, in which you pull cards out of a vertical stack of cards. If you pull them out successfully you can trigger the effects.

The publisher Koguma Koubou previously released BABEL, which mixed the card tower stacking of Rhino Hero with hidden traitors!


Another game for which we don’t know much about the rules but just adore the components is Monster Empire by Freaky Design Inc. We saw the game in a prerelease form at TGM in December last year with wooden standees.

Now they are made out of cardboard but still look phenomenal. The back of box suggests that the game is coming with English rules so we are definitely excited to try out the game while we are in Tokyo.


Gift10Industry must be one of the most innovative companies when it comes to board games. After making games for blind people and a Virtual-Reality party game they are showing their newest creation at TGM.

Morse Karuta by Takashi Hamada is a fascinating educational app-based speed game, in which the 2-8 players can actually learn morse.

There are two different version to play the game. You can either place the cards with the morse code face up and one player taps the morse code on the smartphone and the others try to grab the right card as fast as they can or you can play the advanced rules in which the cards are with their picture side face up and one player taps the morse code while the others have morse reference cards in their hand and try to hear what the right word is and grab the picture card.


Madrick by first-time publisher Sextile Zealot is a game that could interest many people, if only you could find some information in English about it. The only gameplay explanation is blocked in a graphic, so that google translate can’t reach it, but the artwork and the tone of the game immediately drew us in and gave us strong Darkest Dungeon vibes.

We know that it is a 2-player card-driven battle board game with strong Cthulhu influences. Since the components themselves have no language on it, the only thing stopping us from trying it out is that there don’t seem to be any English rules available.


Rule of Magic by River Games is another game we hope to have English rules for one day, but since the game was released already at Osaka Game Market and there was an interesting article from Sugoroku, we know a little bit more about it.

Rule of Magic is a game for 3-6 players in which the players place tokens with a certain number and color on the seven spaces on the board and try to have certain cards in hand similar to poker to gain points.

The interesting aspect is however that rules can be proposed freely, as in every player has a sheet of paper and can write down a rule they would like to play with. Then there is a vote and if the rule reaches a certain number of points it will be integrated into the game.

Rules like “50 points for each red token on the board”, or “The player with the longest facial hair gets 1000 points” could be proposed and then voted on.


Run Metro! by Gemini Games is a tile laying game for 2-4 players. Each player starts the game with 1 tile in hand and each turn draws one tile and may play one tile which has to connect to one tile already in play.

When a station was formed at both ends of the same color line, the player completes a route section and scores points. The score is the sum of the numbers written at the station at both ends multiplied by the number of ○ in the route.

There are also landmark tiles which score points the moment they are placed. It is possible to play both tiles in hand at once thus finishing maybe a station before another player. The player with the most points wins the game.


Let’s finish this roundup with a game that comes with English rules and has just gotten a BGG treatment: Salmon Run

In  Salmon Run, players want to move their salmon upstream as far as possible to lay eggs.

At the start of the round, players take turns laying down cards face down one at a time in a pyramid shape until each player has placed three cards. Then players take turns placing their salmon on a card in the first row.

Players then take turns in an action phase in which they optionally swim their salmon to a new location, jumping occupied spaces and revealing the card where they land, if it were hidden. Land on a bear and you’re out for the round unless you can counter with a bear from your hand. After moving, you can either place a card from your hand face down to add to the river or pass. Once all players pass in turn, the round ends and players then collect ikura tokens equal to their rank in the pyramid.


Stay tuned for one more games round-up before Game Market starts in one week. In the next round-up we will talk about the usual suspects like Oink Games, Okazu Brand and Manifest Destiny who all have new games to show at TGM.

If you have not already please fill out the survey to help us decide which games to bring back!

Scouting for games at Göttinger Spieleautorentreffen

Ah yes, Göttingen.

When I think of Göttingen, I think of the many bicycles at the train station, the beautiful medieval cobblestone streets, my friends who lived there, and a meticulously crafted ‘hobo on a train’ simulation.

Wait – what?

Each year board game authors and publishers meet in the lovely German town of Göttingen to test board games prototypes. The Göttinger Spieleautorentreffen was initiated by Reinhold and Karin Wittig in 1983, and is the oldest and biggest game author’s fair in Germany.

I recently returned to Göttingen in the quest to find new exciting games to publish. We have been doing this scouting work for many years for our partners at Korea Boardgames, but since founding Sweet Lemon back in 2016 we are naturally also looking  for tabletop gold which doesn’t quite fit traditional publishing.™

When scouting new games for a publisher, there are always guidelines and restrictions based on the company’s market and the style of games that bring them success. Generally, if a publisher passes on a game, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like the game. It just isn’t a good fit with their company at the moment.

For example, Korea Boardgames is the biggest distributor for board games in Asia and has published its own games for many years.

While KBG distributes a wide array of different styles of games for families as well as hardcore gamers, when it comes to publishing they’re looking for family games which can be played in under an hour and are fun for children (age 8+) and adults alike. There are many authors presenting games of that segment in Göttingen, so naturally it is an important event for us and we visit every year.

Four years ago, I visited for the first time and back then my colleague Simon wrote an article about the experience scouting for games:

This kind of work will always be taxing. Sometimes it is hard to judge games: Maybe it is fun but… is it -original? -marketable? -fitting your company lineup? Maybe it is not a lot of fun but you can see it could be?

 

Sometimes it is hard to communicate one’s (negative?) opinion to an enthusiastic author. Maybe you feel that the author is missing some elementary flaw in his game: Should you try to help out?

This still is true and will always be true. There are people who put blood, sweat and tears into a project and as a scout you only have the chance to snatch a glimpse of that before moving to the next table, always looking for the perfect fit for your company.  For example, we found a cute dexterity game with launchers and cups several years ago in Göttingen which later became our very successful Coconuts.

Each year we see a lot of promising games that get published some time down the road and this year was no exception. From the quirky designs of Florian Racky to the fun city building games of Filip Miłuński, I played several very cool prototypes and look forward to their proper publication.

Even if it often does not seem like it when testing: I enjoy playing board games 🙂

Last year, around 220 authors presented their games to scouts from 40 different publishing companies. Last weekend, the fair got even bigger and I can imagine it will be even bigger next year – because tabletop games are up and coming.

If you’re an aspiring game author or a publisher in or around Germany, it’s a fair you can not miss. The first day is for authors and publishers, while the second day is also open to the public (although limited to four hours).

What’s the most creative prototype you’ve ever seen? Comment below with your ‘hobo on a train’ simulation!

UK Games Expo 2017

I’ve just returned from my first trip to UK Games Expo. If you’ve never heard of it before, this year it became the 3rd biggest board game fair in the world (only exceeded by Gencon and Essen – though Origins may claim its 3rd place back next week).

Regardless, it will remain the biggest board game fair in the UK. If you are in the United Kingdom, you should go!

All the big and small publishers from the UK were there, as well as many smaller publishers I’ve never seen in Essen before. That doesn’t mean it’s a UK-only event. Queen Games, Pegasus Spiele, Asmodee (through Esdevium), Devir, Board & Dice, ArtipiaNSKN Games and more all had booths.

On my first day I also met our friends from Smiling Monster Games who presented their games CABO and Mission: Combat and also sold their Swan Panasia sleeves to the masses.

Though UK Games Expo is an excellent event to play and test games, it is even excellent-er to buy games and accessories to games.

Not only are there retailer stalls on every corner giving you the best prices on the hotness, there’s also a bring-and-buy area where you can register your old games. They provide you with a price label, so you can drop it off at the booth – giving you back more money to put into new games at the show.

Plus, if you don’t want run around with bags full of games, you can even store them at the Shop & Drop for 2 pounds.

There were also some really interesting seminars by Ian Livingstone and Cartamundi, and of course the guys from Shut Up & Sit Down recorded live podcasts each evening.

But let’s get to the games, right?

Since I was mainly there to to playtest new designs, I didn’t have the chance to play all the new hotness, but here’s my list of games that interested me at UK Games Expo 2017:

Zombies, Run! The Board Game

Although not yet released, the publisher was showing a pre-production copy and I was able to play the tutorial mission.

Zombies, Run! The Board Game is a real-time card game featuring an app which gives audio story and puzzles to solve. As the title suggests, the players are in the zombie apocalypse and have to run so that the zombies don’t kill them.

Along the way, they can rescue other people and solve puzzles. The app notices what you choose and changes the story accordingly. The card play itself is basically color and icon matching, but under a lot of time pressure which makes it nerve-wracking.

I rather enjoyed the tutorial and am curious to see more of this game.

Anything Osprey

I fell in love with Osprey Games at the fair.

Despite only playing The Lost Expedition and Odin’s Ravens – which I absolutely loved! – I can also imagine loving their other games. I already like Shahrazad (which I played as Tarot Storia before), but also Agamemnon and Escape from Coldlitz looked rock solid.

There’s something about their graphic design which lets me gravitates towards them. After this show, I am definitely  curious about everything Osprey puts out.

I’m an Osprey fanboy now!

 Lightseekers

Although a game I would personally never play, Lightseekers nevertheless stood out by virtue of the sheer amount of stuff presented. I’m pretty sure it will be a hit for the publisher (Asmodee, of course).

It’s a collectible figure/app/trading card game taking more than a few cues from Blizzard’s graphic style, especially Hearthstone. I played one of the app minigames in which you used a figure’s gyroscope to fly through a course and collect coins… it was rubbish, but just one of the gajillion uses.

There’ also a (free) WoW style app in which you can use the figures to equip your heroes and use the trading cards to equip even more. On top of that, you could play the TCG by itself if you’re feeling traditional.

Blank: The Card Game

Another game riding the legacy hype train, this time using UNO.

Blank: The Card Game from The Creativity Hub is basically UNO Legacy. After each game, you can write on a card and change the rules of the game. So simple… but could be fun with the right group of people.

Apart from that, I pretty much playtested the day away at the Playtest UK booth – shoutout to Rob Harris for organizing this! I played many cool, new and interesting games, and hope they get picked up by a publisher at some point.

The atmosphere at the playtest was  amazing, with everybody supporting  each other and the tables always full with people wanting to test the  hotness of tomorrow. Maybe someday, someone will organize something like this for Essen? The author’s booths in Essen are a bit neglected…

So that was my first visit to UK Games Expo. If, like me, you’ve been to Essen many times, and are considering the trip to Birmingham, here is a short comparison of the two events:

Size

There are no two ways about it – Essen is much much bigger than UK Games Expo, with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with size.

It would be impossible to check out Essen in one day, but if you know what you want it would be possible (although difficult) to do so at UK Games Expo. On the other hand, many publishers don’t have a booth at UK Games Expo (yet), which means Essen is still more international.

Gaming

I’ll give the nod to UK Games Expo here.

There is a huge open gaming area with a huge library of games. While you could play all the new hotness at the publisher booths in Essen, they are often crowded.

Buying

While the flea market/bring and buy is a great idea for a wide array of games, fewer publishers means also fewer new games available to buy.

Especially for geeks interested in more obscure games, you have to go to Essen, because many publishers won’t go anywhere else. On the other hand, the retailer-to-publisher ratio is better at UK Games Expo, and there were many bargains to be had for older games at the stalls.

Food

Let’s talk about food.

UK Games Expo, please invite some food stands, because everything at NEC sucks big time. I think I gained a few kilos because of all the chips and burgers.

While the food at Essen is not amazing, it offers a good variety of different styles.

If I had to choose between the two, I would still go to Essen, but nevertheless I enjoyed my visit at UK Games Expo tremendously and hope to visit again soon.

Were you there? Let us know your favorite new games!